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“The Second Floor”

By

Gabriel Thomas was excited. Today was the day! He and his best friend Eric were going to hit the open road just the two of them. Drive their motorcycles to places they hadn’t been before. Drive like they used when they were in college. Gabe looked in the mirror at himself. He put on his old aviator sunglasses. His straight brown hair fell gently across the top of the sunglasses. Okay, so he wasn’t the same body type that he was in college. He had only put on a few pounds. It didn’t matter today. He was still hitting that open road he so longed to meet. He pulled on an old band shirt and whipped on his old leather jacket.
Oh yeah. Gabe said to his mirror.

Gabe grabbed his bag and threw it on his motorcycle and hopped on. He started it up. The vibrations from the bike made his hands jiggle.
How did I stay away for so long? He thought as his hand slowly graced the handlebars. Then, he was on his way.
Gabe parked his motorcycle at the end of Eric’s driveway. Gabe’s black boots were very loud as they pounded the cement of the driveway. Eric came out the door. Guess he heard him. Eric ran his boney hand through his thick curly hair. Eric’s blue eyes darted back and forth. Something was wrong. Eric didn’t have a shirt or his boots on.
Oh no. thought Gabe.
I’m not going. I think Jenna needs me here for her and the kids. Eric revealed.
You’re there everyday! Gabe said a little annoyed. Trust me they can do without you for one weekend!
Keep your voice down. I just put Baylee down for her nap. Eric hushed.
Man, would you listen to yourself? You promised me Eric. Gabe was disappointed. It wasn’t like Eric to bail on Gabe. The old Eric would never do anything like that. Whatever, you know, I’m still going. I’ll be heading north through the desert part if you decide to man – up and go. Gabe said walking away.
I’m sorry! Eric called after him.
Yeah, so am I. Gabe shook his head. He jumped back onto his bike, started it up, and was on his way alone.
Psh, who needs him? Gabe thought as he rode into the sweltering desert. Gabe revved his bike harder.
At least we all know who the real man is. Ha! Stay at home, like a Mr. Mom? That wasn’t the Eric I knew! Gabe racked his brain all afternoon for answers.
Eric had never picked anything over him before. Eric always had Gabe’s back. No matter what. Gabe revved his bike harder.
I guess having a family just changes a guy. thought Gabe. No way. That is not an excuse. They would’ve understood.
There weren’t any cars on the road. Gabe drifted from lane to lane. No cars. Not one. It was approaching five o’clock and Gabe was running low on fuel and needed some food. Gabe noticed a small gas station up ahead and decided to stop. It was probably the only one for –
Two hundred miles! the gas attendant yelled. The only thing for at least two hundred miles! Gabe pulled off his gloves and watched as the gas attendant pumped gas into his motorcycle. That’s when Gabe noticed that he was blind.
You not from around here are ya’s? said the man. He smiled. He was missing teeth. The ones he did have were rotting. He wore overalls that looked freshly stained with oil. He wiped his brow with a blue handkerchief.
Uh, no. How’d you guess? Gabe asked.
Oh, I knows everything! the old man laughed.
My name is –
Gabe? I know. the old man said putting his hand out.
Yeah. Gabe said shaking it. How’d you know?
You told me. the man said.
No, I didn’t I- Gabe started.
That’ll be $35.70! the old man ran inside.
What just happened here? Gabe said to himself. He walked inside shortly after the old man.
That’ll be $35.70. said an old woman from behind the counter. She looked about as bad as the old man. She wore an old sun dress and reeked of Corn Chips.
Uh, okay. Gabe said getting out his wallet. Did you see an old man come in here? You know, it’s funny, he knew my name. He said I told him, but I didn’t tell him. I was just wondering if maybe-
Sir, I just take the money. the old woman replied flatly.
Yeah, but you must have seen him.
Sir, I just take the money. Gas all you need? she asked very monotonously.
Uh, I guess I’ll take a few of these. Gabe placed some candy bars and Red Bulls on the counter.
That all? she asked.
Yeah, I guess it is. Gabe said.
Then it’s going to be $47.95. she said. He gave her the money and waited while she sacked it up. Coming? Or going? the woman asked.
Huh? Gabe asked.
Are you leaving here or continuing on ahead? she asked.
Oh, I’m still going. Going to take on the open road. Gabe said laughing.
Gasp! No. You mustn’t! the woman cried. Gabe’s smile faded. You – you can’t drive during the night! You’ll get tired and your mind – your mind will play tricks on you! the old woman warned.
I think I’ll be okay. Gabe grabbed his sack and left. What is it with these people? Has the hot desert sun fried their brains? Gabe jumped back on his bike. He didn’t want to be here anymore. These people were creeping him out.
Wait! the old man shouted at Gabe. Don’t go! The night! It will play tricks on you! he shouted.
Let go! Gabe yelled. The old man cowered away. Gabe rode away quickly.
Gabe couldn’t shake the crazy old people at the gas station from his mind. What was their deal? Crazy old people. What did they mean the night will play tricks on your mind? And HOW did that old guy know my name? I know I didn’t tell him. thought Gabe.
Gabe drove into the starry night. For fun he pointed out as many constellations as he could find. He smiled. He remembered how he used to impress girls with that. Gabe drove for a long time. His eyelids started to become droopy. Oh no, he was getting tired. He was going to need to stop again soon.
Then suddenly, as though God himself were listening, Gabe noticed a building of some sort in the distance. Psh! Only thing for two hundred miles! Gabe mocked. Oh no, I bet it’s a mirage! he laughed. As Gabe got closer he noticed that it was a bar. Excellent! He needed a drink. Gabe slowed down and turned in.
Gabe placed his helmet on top of the seat of his motorcycle. He stretched and scratched his head. He could hear Hotel California coming from inside the bar. Gabe looked around. Hmm...this is strange. he thought. There weren’t any cars in the parking lot and yet he could see the shadows in the windows and hear their laughter from where he stood. Gabe didn’t really think much of it. He walked towards the building.
It was a wooden two-story structure. It had a porch with a big swing. There were three big windows on the second floor. He could see hour glass figures of women twisting and enticing with every beat of the music.
Gabe walked up the steps. A man rolled out from under the swing. Don’t go in there man. He warned. The man looked like he was in his early 60’s. He had on a dirty white T-shirt. His pants were tattered and torn. He was wearing black combat boots. In his right hand he clutched a vodka bottle. It was half gone. The women lure you in with their evil smiles and gorgeous bodies. Don’t fall for it!

Suddenly the front door to the bar flung open. A big broad shouldered man stood in the doorway. Hello. he boomed. Won’t you come in? he smiled.

Gabe stepped through the doorway. The broad man led the way to the bar. Welcome to the Hearth. I think you’ll find this place to your liking. You just might never want to leave. He laughed.

Gabe looked around. He looked from place to place as the broad man explained the layout of the bar.

Directly left to us is the bar. You’ll wanna head over there and meet Woody. Best damn bartender you ever seen. See that guy sitting on the far side of the bar? He pointed. Gabe shook his head. That’s Smitty. You’ll like him. He’s all the time telling jokes. Over there is the pool table. That girl there with the pool stick? That’s Carla. Don’t play her. Well, you can if you want. Just don’t play for money. She’ll whip you every time. And just to the front of us is the dance floor. The young thing that all the guys are falling over? That’s Jasmine. She just turned twenty-one. Those stairs in the right corner go to the second floor. Sorry to tell you this but, you aren’t allowed up there. That’s for certain people only and you aren’t one of them. Got it? So don’t go getting any cute little ideas about sneaking up there. Got it? He looked Gabe in the eyes. I’m Cerberus. Call on me if you need anything. Have fun! Two women immediately grabbed Gabe by the hand and dragged him towards the dance floor.
Jasmine oozed sex on the dance floor. Her long brown hair whipped from shoulder to shoulder. Her big brown eyes drew you in. Her hips showed you the way. I’m Jasmine. She said to Gabe.
Gabe.
Nice to meet you. she said with a sly tone.
Gabe danced several songs with the two women. Then he broke off and migrated towards the bar for a drink.
What’s your poison pal? asked Woody the bartender.
Give me a Miller man. Gabe said to Woody.
I’m Woody. Nice to see you around here. Woody said. He reached behind him without looking and grabbed a Miller. He threw it over his head and caught it with the neck facing down. He scraped the cap on the bottom of the bar and it popped off. He swung it up on the bar before one drop spilled.
Wow. You really are as good as they say. Gabe says. I’m Gabe.
Gabe? Like the angel? says a man. It was Smitty.
Yeah, like Gabriel the Angel. laughed Gabe.
Well what the hell are you doing drinking? Shouldn’t you be watching over somebody? Or rescuing them from danger? Hell, why don’t you rescue my pathetic butt? Smitty laughed heartily. And the name’s Smitty.
Gabe laughed to himself and sipped his beer. He could hear whoops and yells and laughter from the second floor. Gabe leaned forward and asked, What’s the deal with this second floor? Why aren’t we allowed to go up there?
Well I would go, but Woody here gets all teary-eyed if I leave for any period of time. He gets a little jealous. Smitty said sarcastically.
Gabe laughed again. No really, I wanna go. I’m going to sneak up there.
I’m not so sure about that idea. replied Smitty.
Psh. I’m here to have some fun. Gabe said then walked off towards the pool table.
Woody and Smitty looked at one another in the eye and shook their heads.
Hey there. Wanna play? asked a girl. It was Carla. She held a pool stick in her hand. Her body leaned in against it. Her curves seemed to brush the pool stick. She was gorgeous. She had long black hair and piercing green eyes. She had a tattoo of a bird on her left shoulder.
No. I was told not to play you. Gabe flirted.
What? Carla laughed.
Oh yeah. I know your little plan. You’re going to ask me to put money down on it and then beat me so bad. Gabe confessed.
Carla laughed. You’re cute.
As are you. Gabe said getting closer.
Carla looked at her watch. I’ve got to go.
Where are you going? asked Gabe.
Upstairs. winked Carla.
Me too. Gabe said smoothly.
See you up there. whispered Carla.
Carla walked off and looked back over her shoulder at Gabe. She smiled and then headed up the stairs. Gabe followed.
He passed through the people and got to the foot of the stairs when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Excuse me. said a voice.
Cerberus?
I told you. You aren’t allowed up there. Cerberus said shortly.
I know, but I think I should be allowed to go up there. I’m cool enough to be with them. Gabe said pointing upstairs.
I don’t think you know what this is going to cost you. Cerberus said coyly.
Gabe grabbed his wallet in his back pocket. He began pulling out money. How much is it going to cost?

Cerberus placed his big hand on Gabe’s wallet. No sir, you don’t understand me correctly. You have no idea what this is going to cost you. Cerberus said looking in Gabe’s eyes.

Aw come on man! Gabe whined.

Carla looked down from the top of the stairs. Come on Cerberus! Just let him live a little!

I’m trying to. called Cerberus.

Let him up! Come on let him up! More people from the top of the stairs yelled.


I warned you Gabe. Cerberus said sternly.

Cerberus stepped aside and allowed Gabe to pass through to the second floor. Carla was waiting at the top of the stairs for him. Hey cutie. she said to him.

Gabe couldn’t believe his eyes. Everything looked so much better up here. The women looked more beautiful and the atmosphere was fantastic. Carla took him by the hand and led him to the mini bar. Take a drink and meet the gang.
There was a guy with a bandana on his head. He looked sort of drunk. He had a young blond under his arm. She looked passed out on him. Jasmine was there. Another girl by the name of Shavon was there too.

The gang took a great liking to Gabe. He fit right in. Together they partied all night long. After a long time of dancing, Gabe got a little winded and decided to take a rest. Whew! What time is it? asked Gabe breathlessly.

Oh no. It’s almost sunrise you guys. Carla said to the gang.

What? said the passed out girl.

Sunrise is almost here. the man with the bandana told her.

Oh God. she said sadly.

Yeah, I know what you guys mean. I don’t want this night to end either. Gabe said.

Oh man I totally forgot that this kid doesn’t even know. Wow that’s going to suck for him. the man with the bandana said.

Shut up Rodney! Carla barked.

Know? Know what? asked Gabe.

Everyone looked down and hugged their drinks.

Know what guys? asked Gabe.

I hope you don’t have a family cause you’re not going to be seeing them for a while. Scoffed Rodney.

Rodney! Shut it! Carla yelled.

What Carla? You think he’s just not going to notice the fire? You think he’s not going to figure out sooner or later that he’s going to die just like all of us?! Rodney yelled.

Die?!

Gabe, Carla said teary-eyed. You’re going to die tonight. With all of us.

No. No I’m not. Why would you say that? Gabe asked.

Because I’m dead. Carla admitted. We all are. Every night we relive the fire of 1978. This place burned to the ground about 29 years ago. No one really knows how the fire started. It started down by the bar and eventually worked its way around the bar. There were so many people trying to get out on the first floor. Only a few made it out alive. Everyone on the second floor however, we all perished in the flames. None of us could get out. Our souls belong to The Hearth. We can never leave. Did you notice that when Cerberus greeted you at the door he didn’t step outside? He can’t. None of us can get past the door. Every night we go about what we were doing the night we all died. And every night we burn. I’m so sorry it has entrapped you in this crazy mess.

I’m not going to die here! Gabe yelled.

Noises from the bottom of bar were getting louder. It sounded like bottles of beer bursting. Here we go boys!! yelled Woody.

Give my regards to Broadway! Smitty added.

Gabe ran downstairs for the door. Flames covered the door. There was no way out. He backed into the stairs. The flames were so hot. He looked at the bar. Woody was covered in flames. His body was melting before Gabe’s eyes. Woody gave a wave and a smile. Gabe panicked and ran back upstairs.

Cerberus was up there now. I told you! You had no idea what coming here cost! It cost you your life!

Flames engulfed the bottom of the stairs. I love you. Rodney said to the blond girl. Carla wiped the tears from her eyes and took another shot. Gabe watched as the flames crept closer and closer. It was unavoidable. Gabe went over to Carla. He refilled her glass and took another shot with her. He sat down. He waited.

*


*



*


*

Eric?? It’s Amanda, Gabe’s sister? He hasn’t been to work in five days! Did he ever come back from his trip? said a frantic voice on the phone.

Eric sat up in bed. It was 9:30 P.M. Had Gabe ever come back? thought Eric. It’s okay Amanda. I’ll find him. Eric hung up and got out of bed. He turned on a lamp and put on his shoes.

Honey? Jenna said.

It’s Gabe. He never came back. He never came back. Eric said. I’m going to go look for him.

Eric went down the long desert road for what seemed like an eternity. I should’ve gone with him. I should’ve just went with him! Eric blinked harshly. He was getting sleepy. He also was giving himself a headache worrying where Gabe was. He started to get a little better when he saw a building off in the distance.
It was a wooden two-story structure. It had a porch with a big swing. There were three big windows on the second floor. He could see hour glass figures of women twisting and enticing with every beat of the music.
Oh my God. Eric said to himself. He saw Gabe’s motorcycle parked in the parking lot. Whew. I found him. Eric said relieved. He walked up to the steps.
Inside, Gabe was sitting by the window. Eric? He stood up. No. No. No don’t come in here!! yelled Gabe.
A door flung open to greet Eric. Hello there. I’m Cerberus. Welcome to The Hearth. Won’t you come in?




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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

LastChapter said...
Aug. 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm:
i thought this was totally amazing! you built up strong suspicion and confusion, and let our human curiosity lead us deeper into your story. i thought it was very good, but i only wish you could've used verbal symbols to better separate what was and wasn't said and by whom. also, i have to wonder, if the fire victims were so sad to have gabe die with them, why did they lure him in? and why didnt gabe just jump from the window? it was only two stories high, and there was no other choice but death... (more »)
 
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nana.riley said...
May 1, 2009 at 4:54 pm:
wow.............. very interesting.... i wish this was a book.... i would definatly read it.... :) Nana.
 
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